NBA: Rajon Rondo and the Best Passing Point Guards of All Time

Patrick Buscone@pbuscone10Senior Analyst IApril 22, 2012

NBA: Rajon Rondo and the Best Passing Point Guards of All Time

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    Rajon Rondo has taken the league by storm with his passing recently and has put his name into the discussion with the likes of John Stockton, Magic Johnson and the best passing point guards ever. But where does he really rank among these all-time greats? There is no doubt that Rondo is the best passing point guard in the league right now, but here he is going up against point guards that were the best during their time as well. So without further adieu, here are the ten best passing point guards ever.

The Rules

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    For direct comparison sake, only point guards will be considered for this list. That means that great passing big men like Oscar Robertson, Larry Bird and LeBron James will not be included in the list. Also, this list is all about passing. Therefore, Magic Johnson's ability to score and rebound will not help him. Likewise, Steve Nash's defensive shortcomings will not hinder him. These are not necessarily the best point guards ever, although you will find that through their passing, many of these point guards have become known as all time greats.

Honorable Mention

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    Tim Hardaway (8.2 career apg)

    Mark Price (6.7 career apg)

    Gary Payton (6.7 career apg)

    Deron Williams (9.2 career apg)

    Norm Nixon (8.3 career apg)

10. Rajon Rondo

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    8.0 career assists per game

    Led league in assists once

    Best season: 11.6 assists per game

    Rajon Rondo comes in at number ten mainly because he has only played for five years and took a couple seasons to come into his own, passing-wise. For his first two seasons, Rondo averaged 3.8 and 5.1 assists per game. Since then, he has been as good as anyone, but given the small amount of data, it is hard to overlook the outliers. The good news for Rondo though is that he only has five season under his belt, yet he is still on this list. As the new alpha dog for passing in the league, he will only climb on this list.

9. Mark Jackson

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    8.0 career assists per game

    Led the league in assists once

    Best season: 11.4 assists per game

    The only reason Mark Jackson is ahead of Rondo is because he was able to rack up solid assist totals for a longer period of time than Rondo, which is no fault of Rondo's. In fact, assuming Rondo continues to excel passing the ball, he will pass Jackson quickly. But for now, Jackson is number nine for his great passing for nearly sixteen years (compared to Rondo's six). As soon as Rondo gets a couple more years under his belt though, Jackson will be pushed down to ten faster than you can say "Mama there goes that man".

8. Kevin Johnson

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    9.1 career assists per game

    Never led the league in assists

    Best season: 12.2 assists per game

    KJ was remarkably consistent in terms of passing for the majority of his career. As a player he was widely underrated even though he averaged twenty or more points per game and ten or more assists per game four times in his career. Scoring aside, Johnson is held back by the fact that he never led the league in assists. So no matter how good he was at passing the ball, there was always someone better in the league. Still though, eighth on this list is nothing to scoff at and KJ earned it for his consistency passing the ball and his four straight seasons of averaging greater than ten assists per game.

7. Chris Paul

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    9.8 career assists per game

    Led the league twice in assists

    Best season: 11.6 assists per game

    Although it is becoming evident that Rajon Rondo has surpassed Paul in terms of passing this season, there is no denying that over the past few years, few have been close to CP3 passing wise. Throughout his six year career, he has never averaged less than seven assists per game and has averaged double digit assists in three of his six seasons. While his assist numbers appear to be in a bit of a decline over the past couple seasons, 9.8 assists per game is still quite impressive.

6. Isiah Thomas

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    9.3 career assists per game

    Led the league in assists once

    Best season: 13.9 assists per game

    Isiah Thomas was one of the best all-around point guards to ever play the game and passing certainly was no weakness of his. Throughout his career, he consistently hovered in the eight to ten assists per game area which is very good. But his fourth season in the league when he was just 23 sets him apart from most other point guards. During that season, he put on a clinic for passing the ball and averaged nearly fourteen assists per game which is nearly unheard-of for an entire season. The combination of that incredible season and a career full of great passing places him at number seven on the list.

5. Steve Nash

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    8.6 career assists per game

    Led the league in assists five times

    Best season: 11.6 assists per game

    It's hard to believe watching him play now, but when Nash first came into the league, he was not necessarily known for his passing. In his first two seasons, he averaged 2.1 and 3.4 assists per game. Since then though, he has developed into one of the best passers the league has ever seen. Seven times he has averaged double digit assists for the season. He may not have many seasons left in him, but as long as he is playing, he will be dishing out assists at an alarming rate and that is why he is number six.

4. Jason Kidd

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    9.0 career assists per game

    Led the league in assists five times

    Best season: 10.8 assists per game

    Unlike Nash, Kidd came into the league as a gifted passer and throughout his seventeen year career, he has torn up the stat sheet with assists. Never has he had a season like Isiah Thomas' 13.9 apg season, but he has always at or around double digits for assists per game. In just his first season and this current season (which could be his last) has he averaged less than eight assists per game. Every season he could be counted on for a solid nine assists per game and because of that, he is number four on the list.

3. Bob Cousy

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    7.5 career assists per game

    Led the league in assists eight times

    Best season: 9.5 assists per game

    I know what you're thinking, how is a guy who averaged significantly less assists per game for his career and never even averaged double digit assists for a season number three? First of all, the Cooz was the father of the modern passing point guard. More importantly though, was how assists were counted back then. As any player from that era will say, assists were much harder to come by back then (players could not dribble before shooting if it were to be considered an assist) and that can be seen in an overall less amount of assists across the board in Cousy's time. Still though, Cooz was able to dominate in passing the ball and in part, his passing led to six championships for the Celtics and that is why he is number three.

2. Magic Johnson

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    11.2 career assists per game

    Led the league in assists four times

    Best season: 13.1 assists per game

    Magic Johnson playing the point really wasn't fair. He was an incredibly gifted athlete and passer, and with his height, he was able to see over defenses and find passing lanes that shorter guards never could. This advantage as well as his incredible unselfishness and passing ability place him in an incredibly elite category of passers. For a solid nine seasons, he averaged in double digit assists and tore up the league. Unfortunately his career and the dominance he was showing was cut short by his diagnosis with HIV. If he had had a few more years in his career and dominated like in previous seasons, then he could have been number one, but alas, he will have to settle for an incredibly close second (I went back and forth way too many times).

1. John Stockton

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    10.5 career assists per game

    Led the league in assists nine times

    Best season: 14.5 assists per game

    Basically, John Stockton is number one over Magic Johnson because while they were both incredibly dominant during their careers in terms of passing, Stockton's career just lasted six years longer than Magic's did. So while Magic has twelve great seasons passing the ball, Stockton has 18 equally great seasons passing wise. Also, while Magic had a dominant nine seasons of averaging double digit assists, Stockton had a ten year stretch of averaging double digit assists. And with the big deal I made about Isiah Thomas' big passing season in which he averaged 13.9 assists per game, Stockton's season of 14.5 assists per game was even more impressive and definitely the best season, passing-wise, ever. For eighteen years, he dominated the league with his passing. For nine straight years, he led the league in assists, and for one year he averaged 14.5 assists per game. Because of all that, he is the best passing point guard ever.